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I’m Not Done Yet! Or am I?


Am I done with this novel? Is it good enough? When can I say I’m truly done?

As a writer, I always ask myself these questions. But the fact is, one can never say a novel is truly done. There’s no benchmark. There’s no checklist. There’s just me… and my novel. I’m the judge of when it’s complete. And yet, I cannot judge. I wonder if the extra rounds of editing would make my book worse. I oscillate between editing again or leaving it as it is. I don’t know what to do! Help! The uncertainty drives me crazy. But recently, I’ve come to a realisation.

Whenever I edit my novels, I mostly dislike what I read. I’m rarely happy with the text before me. I always think my story sucks – that I’m not a good writer – and I know I’m not alone. But in the midst of that, there’ll be a moment in time – a second of contentment – that hits me like an unforeseen kiss. It’s rare. It doesn’t happen as frequently as I hope it would. And it only transpires after I’ve grown tired with my work. This emotion comes after my self-loathing is replaced with fatigue.

Have you ever felt worn out from all the editing? Have you told yourself, “I’m done. I’m not touching this again. I’ve done all I can”? This brief moment of unexpected tranquility is how I know I’m done. Because… it only sweeps past me after my final round of editing. And by ‘final’, I mean I decided it would be the ‘final round’ before even starting work. How convenient, right?

You see, subconsciously, we know when we’re done. We can sense it. It’s an innate ability. Like how animals can sense an earthquake, it’s a gut feeling we writers have. But the two things holding us back – driving us to spend years on a single book – are doubt and fear. We doubt we have what it takes. We fear we’re not good enough. So we keep at it, on the same piece of writing, not realising that by working on the same thing over and over again, we’re not growing. We’ve boxed ourselves. We’re unable to learn by exploring other stories within us. We squeeze our creativity, then question why we’re not good enough. And when that moment of contentment hits – when we’ve come to believe we’ve given our all – we quickly brush it aside. We disregard the prompt that’s telling us to stop. And we repeat the vicious cycle of wondering, questioning, and not knowing when it’s done.

I, personally, don’t believe we should work on a single piece of work for years. I know I say this with The Slave Prince being a novel I worked on for 3 years, but I wrote plenty of other work during those 3 years too. And by honing my craft, I’m able to better The Slave Prince as I find my own style and voice. Am I done with The Slave Prince now? Yes. Very done. I’ve given my all. And there’s only so much I can do where I am, right now.

Moving forward, I’m ready to dive into new worlds. I’m ready to challenge my creativity and imagination. And I know I cannot do that if I’m stuck on the same book. Don’t let the question of ‘done’ stop you from moving forward. Because in reality, we’re never done. We will always grow, and we need to let ourselves grow.

So take it from me. The next time a wave of surprising satisfaction washes up your shore, after your ‘final round’ of editing, ask yourself these:

Am I done with this novel? Yes. Is it good enough? No. When can I say I’m truly done? Never.

You don’t have to publish your novel tomorrow. But you most certainly need to start writing something new. Only then can you free yourself from a curse, so cruel, it robs you of your much needed ‘happily ever after’.

The End.

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Posted by on March 23, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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How To Tell An Author They Suck

howtotellanauthortheysuck

You don’t.

Unless you’re their writing coach/ language professor/ English teacher – someone professionally hired – you don’t have the right to tell an author they suck. You might think you do, but you don’t.

“Did someone just tell you you suck?” you ask.

“No. This isn’t a passive-aggressive rant.”

Personally, I’ve not encountered anyone who has told me I ‘suck’. But of late, I’ve noticed a lack of respect for authors. And this disrespect isn’t coming from readers, but from authors themselves.

“What? From fellow authors?”

“Yes. It is unfortunately so.”

It seems it’s now considered kind to tell someone they have no talent. It seems it’s now acceptable to feed one’s pride by trampling over someone else. There is no intention to help, only the goal to hurt and a platform to gloat. And we’re doing it to each other.

Authors are fickle human beings. We oscillate between crippling self-doubt and obnoxious pride. Some of us try our best to stay humble when tempted to boast. But some of us think it’s OK to free the beast and let it wreak havoc. What we often fail to see is that this monstrosity loves to attack the weak. And when targeted at fellow authors, it destroys dreams – it magnifies self-doubt and builds fear. It imposes beliefs and revokes creativity. It tears a soul apart for the sake of building its master. And as a cherry on top of the cake, it burns bridges… forever.

Frankly, this beast isn’t something we should be proud of – it’s not an emotion we should even feed. So from one author to another, can I ask you keep this beast locked inside?

“Well, this beast is quite difficult to cage.”

“I agree.”

Pride is a tricky emotion to handle. But despite it tough to tame, it can evolve… like a Pokemon. If we increase our self-confidence – if we learn to trust in our own capabilities – pride would be a memory of the past.

“But isn’t it the same thing – pride and confidence?”

“No. There’s a difference.”

Those with self-confidence find no need to boast about their accomplishments. They don’t step into a ‘coaching’ role when not asked. And they certainly don’t think they’re better than anyone else. Self-confidence is being aware you aren’t the best, but believing you can be the best you.

Those with pride however, will tell the world of all they’ve done. They’ll see the need to correct someone, and think they’re doing it out of favour. They certainly believe they’re better than many others in terms of skill and talent. And whenever there’s an opportunity, they’ll state it.

“How then do we build self-confidence without crossing the line?”

“We starve pride.”

I know, being humble is easier said than done. I struggle with it too. I want people to know I’ve accomplished something. I want the world to recognise my work. But whenever pride tempts me to gloat, I ignore it. I starve its need to shine. When I read a fellow author’s work, I don’t tell the author what they should do and change. Instead, I encourage them to keep writing. I’m not their editor. I’m not their teacher. I have no right to act as though I am. I also know that when they keep writing, they’ll get better. They’ll improve and find their own voice. And if I’m confident in myself, I won’t be afraid if they outshine me – even if they do, I’ll celebrate.

“But what if I’m just trying to help?”

“There is, of course, a difference between giving constructive criticism and being demeaning.”

To know if you’re feeding your pride, ask yourself this: do I feel ‘clever’?

If your words have the intent to make a fellow author admire you, then it’s pride. Because if you truly want to help someone, there’s no subconscious need to feel important. Your goal is to assist, not to fortify your own strength. But like I said, taming pride is – and will always be – a challenge. The only way to beat it is to make a conscious effort to starve it.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel good about ourselves. We should learn to love ourselves and be proud of what we’ve accomplished. But let’s not do it at the expense of others. Let’s not destroy hopes and dreams in the process. Let’s learn to be confident in who we are and what we can do, without stepping on someone else.

“So wait, how do I actually tell someone they cannot write?”

“To think we’re better than someone is to forget we started somewhere too.”

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Dream & Doubt

dreamanddoubt

I don’t question my dream. I don’t question the amount of work I put into achieving my dream. I don’t question why I dream. And I certainly don’t question if my dream is worth it.

However, I do question my skill – my talent – and if I really have what it takes to do it. Am I made for this industry? Are my works of any value? Am I making a difference? Do I disappoint my readers? Can I actually produce something that people love? Is there a hint of potential in me? Why am I… not good enough?

I would start a round of editing and go, “Hey, this writing isn’t so bad,” only to think, “This sucks,” moments later. I would crack my fingers, ready for a fruitful day of rewriting, only to sigh at sunset having not achieved my goal. Out of all the days spent at the keyboard, 90% end with disappointment. And don’t get me started on rereads of older works. Boy, if I had soil beneath my feet, I’d bury my head in a jiffy.

So let’s be honest – I’ve never once been assured of my writing.

I’ve never been confident with what I put on the table. I cannot say my works are worth reading, because there’s always something wrong – something I cannot fix. I can give my all. I can drain my emotions. But I cannot be 100% sure I’ve done a good job. And if you’re finding this relatable, then I’ve achieved the goal of this post.

You’re not alone.

It’s nice to know that, huh? Still, it doesn’t change the fact that we still doubt. And as comforting as the words of Bukowski, it’s something we cannot escape.

The problem is that bad writers tend to have the self-confidence, while the good ones tend to have self-doubt. – Charles Bukowski

Despite the assurance that, “Hey! I’m a good writer because I doubt!” we still chuckle and smirk in disbelief. Maybe the saying is true. But whom am I kidding? I don’t believe Bukowski. I’ve not read any of his works. Even if the internet proves he’s a good writer, we don’t know if this quote is true. There’s no substantial evidence to it. So, where does that leave us? Back at square one.

At least, we’re not alone.

I know it’s impossible to be confident in my works. I’ll always be afraid of disappointing my readers. I’ll hold my breath at the sight of a new review. I’ll not know where I stand in this ocean of writers. And I’ll never stop wondering. You probably feel the same way too. However, in the unknown, I will keep writing.

My dream is far too valuable to be shaken by uncertainties. So I’ll live with them – both doubt and dream – the unlikeliest of friends. In spite of their differences, they drive each other. And the result of their friction fuels my passion. At the end of the day, that’s all I need. That’s all you need. The only important emotion, in the midst of our insecurities, is passion. Because passion… is the spell that turns dreams into reality.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2016 in Writing Journey

 

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